Taxes were higher, house was smaller, say home buyers in lawsuit

Kelly Holleran Sep. 9, 2009, 2:54am

A St. Clair County couple says the real estate company and the couple who sold them the house in which they now reside drastically underestimated the home's square footage by close to 1,000 square feet and taxes on the home by nearly 60 percent.

Ernest and Nancy Monroe filed a lawsuit Aug. 31 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Strano Realty and Robert and Thelma Glock.

The Monroes claim they closed on a house located at 1230 Rutherford Ridge in O'Fallon on March 15, 2007.

They did not move into the home until June 10, 2007, as the Glocks requested to live in the home for an additional three months after closing. In exchange for the additional three months they remained in the home, the Glocks paid three months rent to the Monroes, according to the lawsuit.

After they moved into the home, the Monroes discovered the air conditioning was not correctly working and hired Sigman Heating and Cooling on June 12, 2007, to correct the problem, the suit states. From Sigman Heating and Cooling, the Monroes learned that the air conditioning system installed in the home was not the correct size for the house, the complaint says. However, the problem was not revealed to the Monroes, even though the Glocks had hired Sigman Heating and Cooling to come to their house numerous times before the closing, the Monroes claim.

On June 20, 2007, the Monroes learned there was an increase in property taxes on the home that was also not revealed to them, according to the complaint.

"On June 25, 2007, plaintiff's paid $16,359.66 in property tax that was $7,448.48 higher than was disclosed at the time of buying the home," the suit states. "That pursuant to section 15 of the contract, if the taxes increased by more than $200 the seller would promptly remit the difference."

In an attempt to settle the discrepancy, the Monroes tried to contact the Glocks by mail on June 25, 2007, and on Aug. 10, 2007, the complaint says. However, they say they never received a reply to their letters.

So, on Sept. 29, 2007,the Monroes contacted a mediator, John George, in an attempt to remedy the situation, according to the complaint.

Again, George tried to contact the Glocks through e-mails, letters, telephone calls and through their Strano real estate agent, Vickie Webster, who acted as both buyer and seller agent at the home, the suit states. Still, none of George's attempts at remediation were answered, the complaint says.

Later, on Oct. 29, 2007, the Monroes claim they learned the square footage of their home was grossly understated in the ad in the paper and in closing documents by 1,000 square feet.

On Dec. 12, 2007, the Monroes again attempted to contact the Glocks through a law firm, but their attempts to settle the matter went unanswered, according to the complaint.

"That throughout the dealings between the parties it was represented to plaintiffs that the taxes were roughly $10,000, that the square footage was 5,593, and that the air conditioning system was appropriate for the home," the suit states. "In fact, the Glocks had received correspondence from the St. Clair County Tax Assessor on January 19, 2007, two months before the closing in March, that the property had been reassessed and the taxes would increase almost 60%. Further, the Glocks fraudulently misrepresented the state of the air conditioning and square footage repeatedly throughout the negotiations."

The Monroes name Strano as a defendant in the suit because they say the real estate company, through its agents, failed to properly investigate the accuracy of its listing, failed to investigate taxes on the property and failed to inform the couple of material facts and changes to the property.

In the six-count suit, the Monroes are seeking a judgment of more than $300,000 and unspecified punitive damages, plus costs and attorney's fees.

Jarrod P. Beasley of The Kuehn Law Firm in Belleville will be representing them.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-462.

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